The process of looking afresh at ‘hospital-induced delirium’[i] is just beginning. Because this time it’s happening through a Masters degree, I’m lucky enough to have some space (and people telling me) to research both the subject matter and its potential musical manifestation more thoroughly.
This blog might be a good place to put down some new (to me) pieces of music I find along the way.
One thing I’ve been excited to discover this morning, thanks to my supervisor’s loan of Paul Griffiths’ Modern Music: A Concise History, is Rsewski’s ‘Attica’ (1974), one of two pieces which ‘use the words of inmates involved in American prison riot’.[ii] I don’t so far understand it’s prettiness, given the topic – which reminds me a bit of Reich’s similarly disconcerting prettiness in (parts of) WTC 9/11. But I like it a lot.
And it uses repetition. Robert Pinsky,[iii] referencing oral traditions in poetry, says that: ‘poetry is, among other things, a technology for remembering. Like the written alphabet and the printing press and the digital computer, it is an invention to help and extend memory’. Rsewski embeds the idea that ‘Attica is in front … of me’ by using a mixture of extended anticipation and (his words) ‘cumulative repetition’ (‘Attica is in front… Attica is in front…’). So it seems – and in fact Rsewski tells us – that he wants us to get the message, to ‘heighten [the inmates’ words] by underscoring them with music’. [iv]
Rsewski talks about the ‘ambiguity between the personal, emotional, and meditative aspects of the texts … and their wider political implications’.[v] This is something which resonates with the delirium projects. But the politics of music-as-research, and perhaps how/whether this relates also to Participatory Action Research, I need to understand better. One thought is this: research is generally designed to form part of a patchwork of ideas building over time into a corpus of knowledge, is presentation of research in music – designed to push it out from the patchwork and declare itself important – potentially ideologically problematic?
[i] Crane, M. (2015, February 8). Stay at hospital can induce delirium. Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved from http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/02/08/stay-at-hospital-can-induce-delirium.html
[ii] Griffiths, P. 1994. Modern Music: A Concise History (2nd edition). London & New York: Thames & Hudson: 184.
[iii] Quoted in Yeung, H. H. (2015, forthcoming) ‘Our Plastic Brain: Remembering and Forgetting Art’ in S. Groes (ed.) Memory in the Twenty-First Century. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 266–268.
[iv] Quoted in Griffiths, Modern Music: 184–5.